Sea change on the streets

Departments - Editor’s Letter

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September 8, 2021

There is an unmistakable shift taking place within the North American solid waste industry.

Both municipalities and haulers have begun to dip their toes into the electric refuse vehicle market, and although it will take a number of years, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before these vehicles dominate the road.

For years, the industry has shifted from traditional diesel vehicles to alternative fuel options like compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable natural gas (RNG) to help reduce emissions. Certainly, alternative fuel vehicles aren’t going anywhere in the near term, but early adopters are increasingly putting their money into battery electric options as manufacturers bring more of these vehicles to market.

Just in the last few months, Battle Motors delivered two battery-powered electric refuse trucks to New York City-based Liberty Ashes Inc.; New Way and BYD delivered three battery-electric refuse trucks to city of Ocala, Florida; BYD delivered a pair of electric trucks to Kuna, Idaho-based J&M Sanitation; and Peterbilt Motors Company announced the delivery of its first production Model 220EV to the Anchorage Department of Solid Waste Services in Anchorage, Alaska.

Beyond that, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) announced plans in July to purchase seven LR Electric refuse models from Mack Trucks, and Republic Services has announced that its partnership with Romeo Power will result in two of Republic’s diesel trucks being retrofitted to electric power by the end of 2021 as the two groups collaborate on further developing electric vehicles for the Phoenix-based hauler.

Beyond fuel savings and less maintenance required for electric vehicles, legislation and the pressure to showcase sustainable operations are going to push haulers towards electric vehicles in the coming years.

Additionally, as manufacturers increase production capacity in North America and investment follows suit, the cost of these trucks will begin to drop. This, coupled with the faster return on investment that these vehicles offer, will make electric more favorable from an economic perspective in the coming years.

In “Striving for zero,” Battle Motors CEO Michael Patterson talks about how his company is the beneficiary of this booming electric vehicle market.

“We’re delivering 120 electric refuse trucks over the next three months,” says Patterson.

He continues, “We’re going to be delivering 200 electric trucks per month in 2022. Pretty much every major city is buying one or two electric trucks; we’ve already sold out everything we could make in 2021.”

Imaging what the future of waste might look like with electric vehicles as the primary option for collection is speculative, but it is clear that this is the future the industry should be preparing for.